A society that not only tolerates an array of perspectives but celebrates them. People of all ages and walks of life inquiring with one another as equals, in the sense that all involved have their unique stores of knowledge and wealth of wisdom, that all have talents and expertise.
To evolve our democracy into a genuine and inclusive participatory system.
The method we use is based on Socratic Inquiry, but so much more than that — it includes equal parts rationality, imagination, inventiveness, thoughtfulness and even empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s shoes).
Ours is no mere dialogue, but a forward-looking method of exploration in which, part and parcel of any and every question we delve into, we at the same time continually ask ourselves not only ‘who am I?’ and ‘who are we?’ but ‘who can I become?’ and ‘what are we capable of achieving and being?’
It is based on the premise that we are works in progress, together and alone, always capable of further sculpting.
Our dialogue initiatives have entwined within them a ‘change component,’ in which we are inspired to be the change we want to see in the world.
WHAT WE VALUE
Celebrating both sameness and difference — recognizes we are all equally human, each with our unique strengths and weakness, blind spots and insights.
Shared inquiry amongst adults and children. Each bring their unique and valuable perspective. Adults bring a wealth of knowledge that comes with experience while children are adept at asking questions and coming up with new perspectives as they are more free of assumptions.
Inclusive political systems with opportunities for everyone to be heard which encourages a citizenry of enlightened generalists and constructive skeptics. We imagine a future where the voting age will be lowered and we’ll have a much more bottom-up form of government, with those at the top taking their marching order from those below.
A citizenry that strives for arete — Greek for ‘all around excellence,’ in which a key part of that striving is to act in ways that elevate others near and far (indeed, in which such striving is a demonstration of ‘arete in action.’
‘Egalitarian elitism’ – a society that recognizes and extols the array of capacities and experiences and talents of each and every human being. Not only does this NOT diminish anyone’s particular expertise, this ethos will enhance it.
The blurring of disciplines as transdisciplinary collaboration becomes commonplace and silos are torn down.
Feeling connected to one another and our world, co-creators one and all.
Young and old alike will recognize that they need one another if their lives are to be a lifelong process of discovery.
PRINCIPLES FOR ACTION
We aim to engage more and more of ‘the people’ in the democratic process by revolutionizing the way we interact with another. This in turn can transform how we educate, raise and govern one another. It drives the evolution of a more inclusive and participatory society — and, as a result, of democracy itself. We believe everyone matters and counts, and that a vibrant open society hinges on an informed, engaged and enlightened citizenry. To that end, ‘we the people’ have to get together — more often than not in public places and spaces — and take part in regular exchanges about our ideas and ideals. This transforms how we relate to one another, to ourselves, and to our society.
We hold that genuine self-determination and enfranchisement in a true democracy hinges on continual participation and input of all citizens, including our children and youth, and celebrating the unique stores of wisdom, talent, and experiences of one and all.
All of the people must be given equal and ample opportunity to become standouts. This does not in any way mean that all have to have an equal share of material wealth; however, it does mean that all need certain basics, like the right to vote, a right to a world-class education, and a right to participate fully and positively in the public sphere. The fulfillment of these needs will spur the creation of a more ‘egalitarian elitism.’
Thoughtfulness and Reasonableness—Mission Accomplished!
Nothing gives us a greater sense of ‘mission, accomplished,’ than when someone taking part in a Democracy Cafe-spearheaded initiative says something to this effect: “I never imagined that such a diverse group of people had it in them to engage one another so thoughtfully and reasonably.”
Philosophy of ‘Childing’
Collins American dictionary defines ‘childing’ – term that’s been around since the 13th century – as “bearing a cluster of newer blossoms around an older blossom.” Such a rendering, if applied to the human condition, would indicate that there is no shedding of the old as we add the new, but a continual super-adding of the new to the old. Our projects aim to see to it that we blossom, starting from day one, from a healthy core so that we blossom like figurative flowers rather than shrivel like raisins. Our philosophy is that to ‘child’ to the max, adults need the considered insights and wisdom of children and youth every bit as much as they need ours, and so it’s important that we inquire together frequently. This will help ensure that at every age and stage of life we’ll be filled with wonderful, curiosity, empathy, and a sense of connected with our fellow humans, with ourselves, and society on local and global scales.
We strive to nurture what the Greeks of ancient Athens called philia, or ‘friendship love’ — not just between two people or among a small group, but in the way in which philia was conceived of and practiced in the city-state of Athens of old. They considered philia a bond of deep affection and caring that should exist among the entire citizenry, including among those that didn’t know one another directly. We’re trying to resuscitate this type of bond. One sure sign of our success is not only that fast friendships are formed among unlikely bedfellows who attend our gatherings, but that those taking part also tend to feel a greater overall sense of commitment to their community, and to society as a whole.
Our goal is that of the thriving democracy that existed once upon a time in the polis of ancient Athens — to achieve arête, or all-around human excellence. Arête is a kind of excellence that only can be achieved when all members of society come to feel an abiding sense of responsibility for and commitment to one another. Those who strive for arête are engaged in discovering and developing their talents to the fullest, so each can contribute optimally to both self and societal flourishing. This is a never-ending process. Our premise is that we are works in progress, forever sculptures in the making, and that as such, we are always capable of dramatically transforming and evolving in ways that can give ever greater meaning to our lives and those of others in our orbit.
We practice what we preach – When we say everyone matters and counts equally, and when we say that children and youth are as integral to a democracy as adults, we mean it. Democracy Café’s hands-on board of directors and advisory board has members young and old, from 8 to 18 to 79 years of age. Moreover, we have 100 percent financial participation by our board members, who bring a wide range of skills – from visual design, to public relations outreach, to strategic planning – that they lend readily to our nonprofit.
We feature a genuine method of inquiry that is rigorous yet accessible. We utilize a version of the Socratic Method developed by our founder that equips and inspires diverse inquirers continually to further develop and discover their unique point of view. It’s our experience that it’s in a certain kind of group setting, with a method of inquiry that requires the sustained and thoughtful consideration of a variety of objections and alternatives to any given point of view, that we can most effectively hash out our highest ideas, our values, our visions for ourselves and one another, in this case about how we best unfold. Our method steers us away from ‘argument and debate mode’ and instead focuses on thoughtful and rigorous exploration and inquiry that often leads participants to discover embracing new horizons.